Women’s Fellowship

Years ago, I was part of the Women’s Ministry at my church and one of the things I really liked about it was the fellowship.  We would hold programs like “Lunch and Learn” where women would come together at someone’s home and a pastor or a speaker is invited to share a profound message with us.  Then afterwards, we would enjoy a potluck while uplifting Gospel music played in the background.  I have enjoyed the Women’s Ministries’ yearly three day retreats where I was blessed with Friday night vespers, a Sabbath school program and worship on Saturday morning and workshops in the afternoon.  On Sunday we had breakfast and more workshops before we closed the wonderful three day event with prayer.  Women’s Ministries also offer seminars where women come together and share their testimonies.  It’s during these times when women dig into God’s Word, encourage, pray for and fellowship with each other.  Women’s Ministries have truly been a blessing for me and countless of women.

Can you imagine not having a Women’s Ministry or not being able to fellowship with other women?  Nor can I.  It would be hard for the thousands of women all across South Asia not to be able to attend a weekly Women’s Fellowship group.   Through this group, they learn God’s Word, memorize Scripture, pray, reach out and worship the God who reached out to them–Asia’s most unreached group.  God is working to change thousands of lives.

Many of us know what it’s like to fellowship with other believers and how being a part of a prayer group or Bible Study class has helped us in our spiritual growth.  Women in Asia need the same close fellowship as many of them come from families who don’t know Christ.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could find a fellowship group where they can pray and study God’s Word?  Well, you can help to make this possible.  How?  Through prayer.  Gospel for Asia has put together this list of prayer requests:

  • Pray for Women’s Fellowship so that more women can be reached
  • Pray for women to understand Christ’s love and acceptance
  • Pray for more leaders
  • Pray for transformation of lives and families
  • Pray for God to empower women as they share
  • Pray for the Women’s Health Project and the Women’s Literacy Program

Women’s Fellowships are usually led by a woman missionary, a pastor’s wife or a godly believer in the church.  A growing congregation needs someone to lead and mature women are best suited to teach the other women.    Their experience and wisdom will help to guide the younger women.

Likewise, older women should be reverent in behavior, and not be false accusers, not be enslaved to much wine, but teachers of good things, that they may teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  and to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored – Titus 2:3-5.

As Christian women, we have duties towards each other.  So, let us encourage one another through prayers, ministries, Bible studies, fellowships and worship.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Advertisements

Forsaken and Abandoned

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation – Psalm 68:5

It’s heartbreaking to see how widows are treated in South Asia.  They don’t receive the care, love or support that widows in North America do.  Instead they are blamed for their husbands’ deaths and abandoned by their families.

A widow is stripped of her colorful clothing and forced to wear a white sari because her status has changed from married to widowed.  The glass bangles she wore to let the world know of her marital status are smashed into tiny pieces.  The privilege she once enjoyed as a married woman has been taken away from her simply because her husband died.

A widow is not in control of her own life.  Her eldest son is.  And she is one of the lucky ones if she gets to sleep in a tiny corner of his house.  Can you imagine, you raised your child–cared for him as best as you could with what you had and years later when you are a widow, that child controls your life and treats you like an animal?  I have seen dogs and cats treated better here in North America.  They get to sleep in warm beds.  Yet, we have widows in South Asia sleeping in corners.

Can you imagine your mother, sister, daughter or you being sent out of the family home and forced to work for a few cents a day at a temple or beg on the streets just to survive?  This is the sad reality for widows in South Asia.  They don’t have the skills or tools that would help them to earn a living so they are forced scrape by as prostitutes, beggars or daily laborers.  If they are mothers, their children are forced to work instead of going to school.  Those who wander while their mothers work are vulnerable to abuse.

Widows are shunned and degraded.  Their lives are filled with pain and struggle.  Poverty and hopelessness are burdens they carry everyday.  They need to know that there is a Savior who is willing and able to relieve them of these burdens.  They need to know that He loves them and wants to deliver them from their despair.  They need to hear the Good News.  They need hope.

Widows - Gospel for Asia

I encourage you to open your hearts to the struggles widows face everyday and to pray for them. Pray that they learn about the One who knows every detail of their lives and cares for them.  He doesn’t blame them for their husbands’ deaths.  He wants to provide for them.  He wants to change their circumstances so that they no longer have to beg or degrade themselves in order to feed themselves and their children.   Pray that they will be able to earn an honest living to support themselves and their children.   It would be especially good for the older widows to have their own small businesses.  Pray that their children will be safe and that they get to learn about Jesus’ love through Bridge of Hope centers, Sunday schools and vacation Bible schools.  Widows need to be in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable sharing their struggles, strengthen their faith and foster relationships with other believers.  They find this kind of environment in Women’s Fellowship groups.   Pray for these groups who reach out to widows by visiting them at their homes and inviting them to meetings.  Pray that God will provide them with more opportunities to encourage and share Jesus with these women who are forsaken and abandoned by their families. They have this promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day – 1 Timothy 5:5

Pray for Widows

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him – Psalm 37:40

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Women of Faith Persecuted

I received this persecution and prayer alert from The Voice of Martyrs Canada.  Imagine your teenage daughter is gang-raped, beaten and her life is threatened because you left Islam?  This is the reality for women who have converted to Christianity.  Their families threaten them, their husbands leave them and they could lose custody of their children.  They are attacked.  During these awful times, it is hard for them to remain strong in their faith and that’s why they need our prayers.  As you read their stories, try to imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes.

UGANDA: Abuse Perpetrated Against ‘Women of Faith’

Sources: Release International, Morning Star News

Pray for the safety of women in Uganda.
Photo: Flickr / CIAT (cc)

A teenager from eastern Uganda, whose parents had converted to Christianity, was gang raped and beaten a few weeks ago. The 19-year-old college student was still receiving hospital treatment nine days after the attack which took place in the Bukedea district.

Three masked men ambushed the young woman as she was returning from her teacher training college on September 19th. They threatened to kill her because her parents had left Islam, then they beat her to an unconscious state. She was discovered by passersby the next day. This attack has worrying similarities to the gang rape of a pastor’s daughter that took place in the predominantly Muslim Budaka district of east Uganda earlier this year.

Meanwhile, also in Budaka, a mother of eight attests that she has been forced to return to Islam, after in-laws threatened to kill her and take away her children. The woman’s husband left her ten years ago because she became a Christian. The discouraged 36-year-old mother is said to be “spiritually troubled” and has asked for prayer that God would restore her to Christ.

Ask the Lord to greatly comfort and heal both of the young Christian women who were raped and beaten. May He protect them from any further harm, and bring needed comfort to their concerned families, strengthening each of them in their faith. In addition, please uphold the abused mother from Budaka who was forced to convert to Islam, praying that she will experience God’s presence, restoration and protection. Ask Him to also protect her children — both physically and spiritually. Let us also be mindful to intercede on behalf of our other persecuted brothers and sisters in Uganda, praying that they will put their trust fully in God, even amid the rising persecution in certain areas — particularly against Christians of a Muslim background.

To post a prayer on behalf of those who are suffering for their Christian faith in other parts of the world, please visit our prayer wall.

We have read in the Bible how believers of the early churches were persecuted, scattered or martyred for their faith.   Jesus warned that we would face tribulation.  He said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (Matthew 24:9, 10).  However, He also gave us this assurance, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14).  

I pray that these women will not lose their faith and that they will hold on Jesus’ promises.  They each have a crown laid up for them.  Let us pray that they will persevere so that they can receive their crowns.  And it’s encouraging to know that no matter what opposition, tribulation or persecution Christians face, none of these things will stop the everlasting Gospel from being preached to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people (Revelation 14:6).

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? – 1 Thessalonians 2:19 

Plead for the Widows

They still hope when they die, that their son probably will come and light their pyre.  A son who breaks your legs, a son who hits you so hard that your skull breaks, a son who is willing to put cow dung in your mouth – and yet you want the same son to come and light your pyre. We need to break that mind-set also, somewhere – Winnie Singh, social activist

I was searching the Internet to see what I could find out about the quality of life for widows in India and was shocked.  After losing their husbands, they are faced with a life of begging and destitution.  Some of them are thrown out by family members.  One widow was beaten by the sons she had raised when she asked them for money.  In-laws refuse to help some widows while others can’t go back home because their parents are too poor to take them back.

Widows face discrimination and are dehumanized.  They are called “it” and in some instances, they are referred to as “randi” which means prostitute in Punjabi.  Some of them marry their brothers-in-law because being man’s property protects them from being raped.

A widow is blamed for her husband’s death.  “You are widowed because you did something wrong in your previous life: that is the view in this predominantly Hindu culture,” explains Dr. Leelavathi Manasseh of the Bible Society. “So, whether a widow is from a rich or poor background, she faces blame, mistreatment and rejection by her family. Many are kicked out of their homes and left to fend for themselves and their children, leaving them in a desperate situation.”  It’s worse when a woman loses her husband to AIDS and she tests positive for HIV.  She is met with even more rejection and ridicule.

In Northern India, there is a place called, “Widow City.”  It is the holy city of Vrindavan.  Widows go there because they believe that if you die there, you would be freed from the cycle of birth and death and obtain moksha (emancipation). It is a place where these women can get away from a life of isolation and the society where they have no place or value.  They are there because they were cast out families who don’t want to pay for them or by in-laws who don’t want them to inherit money or property.  They are ostracised by their villages.  They have lost their income.  They are at the bottom rungs of society and are prevented from remarrying.  In Vrindavan, they pray at the temples and beg. Other widows go there, as pilgrims, intending to dedicate their remaining years to serving the deities Krishna and Radha.

Life for a widow is hard.  When their husbands were alive, they were protected but once they were gone, these poor women felt like orphans because they had no one to take care of them or help them.  They were all alone.  Perhaps this is why in the Bible, orphans and widows were always paired together because they were defenceless, society’s vulnerable.  God wants us to plead for the widows.  Defend their rights to a future filled with hope and dignity.  God made it clear that He is “Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans” (Malachi 3:5).

While society sees widows as a curse, God sees broken, abused, mistreated and unloved women whom He wants to enter into a loving relationship with.  Their families don’t want them, but God wants them to be a part of His family.

Like so many widows, Netramani was cast out and left to fend for herself.  “I was completely alone. … No one would give me work so I had to beg. … I had nothing to eat, nothing to wear. I was completely senseless and didn’t know anything. . .”

Watch Netramani’s heart-wrenching story and imagine either you or someone you know lying there, sick and helpless and no one stops to help.

…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’ – Matthew 25:35-40.  

June 23 is International Widows’ Day, a day when we step into the lives of widows and imagine the desperate places where they find themselves.  Some commit suicide rather than face the shame.  Others turn to prostitution.  Mothers resort to rummaging through the trash in order to feed themselves and their children.  These women don’t deserve to be like this.  You can change this. Through your donations you will make it possible for local pastors to help widows in need, buy them sewing machines, farm animals, or much-needed supplies like winter blankets, water filters and other essentials.  And with your generous gift, these women will have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and His love and compassion for them. To find out more about how you can help, visit http://www.gfa.org/women/widows/

As Christians, we need to demonstrate the love of Christ who reached out to those who were hurting, oppressed and ostracised.  He loved the unloved and valued those whom society deemed worthless. Together let us plead for the widows.  Let us take up their cause.   They have the right to keep their homes, their income and their dignity.  Let us contend with those who mistreat them.  Let us speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  When we do good to others, we honour God.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widowsIs God in His holy habitation – Psalm 68:5.

Sources:  Gospel for AsiaTime.com; Women Under Seige; The Laws of Manu; BBC.com; Cross Map; India: Widow City; BBC News

A Missionary for God

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

Consider the plight of women in South Asia.  Here are some horrifying facts:

  • Young girls throughout Asia are ravenously abducted and forced into a life of prostitution with every agonizing day one step closer to an early death from AIDS.
  • Widows in India bear the blame for their husbands’ deaths. They’re shunned by their communities, rejected by their families and forced into an inhumane lifestyle. Tens of thousands take their own lives just to end the pain.
  • Every year in India, more than 7,000 women are doused with kerosene and burned to death—by their husbands. The wife’s crime: an insufficient dowry.

Suicide rate among women in India is up to 21 times higher than the world’s average.  Lately, the number of incidents of rape have increased following several high-profile cases of young girls being brutally raped in public areas.  According to a global poll conducted by Thomson Reuters, India is the “fourth most dangerous country” in the world for women, and the worst country for women among the G20 countries.

Women in Asia are constantly faced with misery, violence, degradation, rejection, abuse, etc.  Yet, there is hope in the midst of this vicious cycle.  Women missionaries are dedicating their lives to reaching out to these women, bringing the love of Christ to them and showing them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  One of these beacons of hope is Ruth.  Ruth was once like these women–living a life filled with pain and heartache.  Unloved, unwanted, underfed and forced to work at the age of five simply because she was born a girl.  Her parents had desperately wanted a son after having three girls. Ruth’s father hated her and when she asked him why, he shouted that she should have been a boy.

Ruth’s life changed years later when women missionaries from Gospel for Asia shared the Good News of a God who loved her.  She had never known what it was like to be loved and here these women were telling her about a Father who loved her.  What amazing and wonderful news.  Watch her story here and see how God called her to change the lives of women through missionary work just as He had done for her.

The wonderful thing about Ruth’s story is how God transformed her father, making it possible for her  to have the relationship she had always wanted.  The last time Ruth had seen her father was when she had tried to touch his feet, out of honour and he had kicked her in the face.  After that experience, she left home, not intending to ever go back. While she was at Bible college, preparing to serve God, God was working on her father, changing his heart.  And when the time was right, God brought them together.  It had been three years since she had seen him.  At the train station where he went to meet her, she knelt down to touch his feet but this time, instead of kicking her away, he took her by her arms and lifted her to her feet. And for the first time in her life, Ruth felt her father’s arms wrap around her in a warm embrace.  She felt two arms drawing her to him instead of pushing her away.  She felt loved and accepted.  For Ruth, it felt, “like heaven has come down.”  Yes, heaven had come down.  God had made this precious moment possible.

It was through women missionaries, God turned Ruth’s life around so it is not at all surprising that she responded to His call to be a missionary so that through her, other women could find “triumphant, redeeming hope in Christ!”  As a missionary, she could make a difference.  There was purpose in her life now.  She could go from place to place, sharing her testimony and praying with women and bringing them hope.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

As I watched Ruth in the mission field, I thought of Jeremiah.  When Jeremiah was still in his mother’s womb, God had planned for him to be a prophet.  It’s the same with Ruth.  Before she was even born, God wanted her to be a missionary for Him.  He had a purpose for her life.  Even if her parents didn’t want her, He did.  She was to be a light in the world for women who only knew darkness and despair. She was to be His messenger of hope.

You can help other women find hope and hear the incredible news about a God and a Saviour who love them and would like to change their circumstances.  Sponsor a Woman Missionary

I love to tell the story, it did so much for me; I love to tell the story, for some have never heard

 

TD11-07086 (1)

Sources:  Women in Asia; Gospel for Asia

Love in Greece Crisis: Prostitution

It’s the oldest profession in the world.  It existed since biblical times.  What causes a woman to turn to prostitution?

Women become involved in prostitution for a variety of reasons such as homelessness, child sexual abuse, mental ill health, trauma, previous sexual violence, drug and alcohol misuse, money pressures and poverty.

According to an article written in The Telegraph, during the country’s economic crisis, prostitution in Greece has soared by 150% as women who would otherwise have looked for employment elsewhere are now turning to sex work in order to care for themselves and their families.  These women are wives, mothers and young professionals.

In the video clip, married women are turning to prostitution out of desperation.  It’s the only way they could think of to feed their children.  The owner of a legal brothel seen here has had turn away women after learning that they are married as it is illegal for married women to work in brothels or studios.  Eventually they end up on the streets.

But regardless of its intention, the law isn’t stopping married women from working as prostitutes. It’s simply preventing them from operating in regulated environments and forcing them on to the streets, something which is both illegal and dangerous.

The country must stand for some decency for its citizens. The thought of married women turning to sex work to support themselves and their family is not only sickening but horrifyingly sinful.   Not to mention that fact that I read in an article that men are opting not to have protected sex so the risk of these women contracting sexually transmitted diseases and worst–HIV/AIDs increases.  These women are risking their health and lives just to take care of their families.

In my husband’s opinion, “This is awful! Married women should not be sex workers or prostitutes. Things must be pretty bad since their husbands are out of work too and cannot support their families. Their husbands need work! This is terrible.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a wife and/or mother has to turn to selling her body in order to care for her family. These women are moral but due to poverty and hardship brought on by unemployment they resort to selling their bodies NOT because they want what to but are FORCED to do so JUST to earn an income to support their families. Can you imagine your sister or aunt or mother selling herself so that she can earn money to buy a loaf of bread?

What can be done to help these women in these dark times so that they don’t see prostitution as their only way out of poverty and hardship?

 

Sources:  http://www.womenssupportproject.co.uk/content/prostitution/205,172/ ; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30914039; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/11370049/Greek-election-Prostitution-is-the-hidden-cost-of-economic-crisis.html

Hymen Reconstruction

This week on the Ricki Lake Show, I learned about women having their hymen reconstructed.  I never knew such a thing existed.  Check out this clip from the show.

Melody Meozzi, an Iranian-American Muslim writer and attorney, is a staunch opponent of hymen reconstruction.  She believes that it further contributes to violence against women.  She goes head to head with with Dr. Robert Moore, an internationally recognized Laparoscopic and Vaginal Reconstructive Surgeon who has operated on patients from all over the US and the world.

Hymen Repair Surgery, termed as Hymenoplasty is a simple surgery to restore virginity of women owing to the religious, cultural and ethnic reasons. The surgery repairs the hymen after it has been ruptured during sexual assault, agreed intercourse, sports, falls or insertion of tampons.

The Hymen Restoration Surgery takes up to 30 minutes to an hour. The surgery is performed under local anaesthesia with sedation or general anesthesia. It involves stitching of the edges of the remaining hymen together. Soon after this the hymen heals and the ruptured hymen grows back to a hymen similar to one in virgin girls. With hymen restoration, vaginal walls also tighten up.

Such procedures are not generally regarded as part of mainstream gynecology, but are available from some plastic surgery centers, particularly in the USA, Japan and Western Europe, generally as day surgery. The normal aim is to cause bleeding during post-nuptialintercourse, which in some cultures is considered proof of virginity.

I came across an article on the BBC News website about women in Asia and the Arab world who risk being ostracized or death because they had sex outside of marriage.  Many of them are undergoing surgery to reconnect their hymen so that there is blood on the sheets on their wedding night.  Others have committed suicide because of the unbearable pressure and the fear of being found out.  Read their stories.

Hymen reconstruction surgery is performed in China as sexually active Chinese women are pressured by their new husbands.  This procedure is also done in Canada.  There were lots of websites promoting hymen repair, reconstruction.  There was even a website called Hymen shop where they sell artificial hymen.

There is so much information out there about hymen reconstruction.  If you or someone you know is considering this procedure, educate yourself first.  Seek counselling.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into having the surgery.  This decision is yours alone.

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymenorrhaphy; http://www.weirdasianews.com/2010/09/14/hymen-reconstruction-surgery-price-virginity/; http://www.indicure.com/articles/hymenoplasty-procedure-outcomes-cost-hymen-restoration-surgery-in-top-hospitals-clinics-in-india.html; http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/hymen-reconstruction-doesnt-work;